As humans, we are part of the natural world, and when our nervous system feels organized & well-regulated, we are able to feel present and responsive to ourselves, to others, and to our ever-changing environment. This settled awareness may not feel accessible when we have the effects of stress or unresolved trauma in our system, or when we are going through significant life-changes and difficulties.
Somatic Experiencing helps to restore a feel of this natural flow, connecting us with an innate process to reset our nervous system and release trauma.
Somatic Experiencing was developed by Peter Levine as a method to address trauma in the body and psyche.
He observed that animals in the wild are able to release highly charged experiences and come out of fight, flight and freeze states naturally whereas humans can accumulate the effects of an unresolved charge in our autonomic nervous system causing symptoms of pain & dysfunction.
Levine developed a way to support completion and resolution of this activation, helping us to come out of survival physiology and restoring a sense of connection to ourself.
As we experience life there are many circumstances and difficulties that can take us off centre - this can result in anything from a gentle "not feeling quite right" to finding it extremely difficult to live in our body from day to day.
Dr. Gabor Mate, an author and speaker on trauma, talks of the loss of connection to ourselves as a potential outcome of trauma, and that healing comes through recognizing resilience, and finding reconnection with ourselves.
The focus of Somatic Experiencing is to renegotiate what wants to be processed in our body & psyche, and to do so as we stay present within an awareness of our capacity so that we are not re-traumatized. One of the hallmarks of SE is to be able to work with a little activation or charge as we stay within a window of tolerance or an honouring of where the nervous system is in any given moment which supports the ability to integrate the work.
One way to do this is to slow down movements & storytelling to gage how they can be worked with. This means that the practitioner may at times interrupt, supporting the process to stay connected to an inner wisdom that is organized and functional. It is often in the slowing down of the story-telling that we notice other information become available for a sense of a completion of the trauma, and a feeling of empowerment as we engage with the process. These are the "a-ha moments" and the places of reconnection to ourselves that can bring healing and a renewed energy.
The unique experiences each of us have, and the best response in any particular moment to relate to these experiences is best resolved when centred from within us - the SE practitioner is truly just a guide along the way to support connection to this inner wisdom so we can in the best way possible move forward in life.
The framework in SE for the language of working with stress & trauma is SIBAM which stands for:
S - sensations (the primary way of an embodied approach is tracking sensations that we feel in our body)
I - images (often people will experience images or colours as the process unfolds)
B - behaviour (movements of the body that come during the session like hands moving as the person talks)
A - affect or emotion (these come up naturally throughout the session in response to sensations & content)
M - meaning-making or story (memories can arise that help give more context & understanding, and as
experiences are integrated, there is an ability within us to take our own meaning from them - even if the
circumstance itself is unredeemable, there can be internal strength cultivated as we find our way through)
Identifying our resources is a way to help us stay present so that we have the capacity to be with the process and so that we can integrate the work done in the session. Each person may have different expressions of resourcing and examples could be: noticing when our body feels freer and letting that be experienced; orienting to something in the room that brings enjoyment like a painting on the wall or the colour of a throw pillow etc.; bringing a beloved pet to mind or a favourite activity - these resources will be explored with the practitioner during the session.
Riding the wave is a familiar metaphor that helps us to realize that there is a beginning, an end and an overall flow to experiencing changes in our sensations, emotions and the physiology of our body. Polyvagal Theory was developed by the the neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Porges and provides a mapping of the responses of our autonomic nervous system as we navigate what is supportive and what is potentially threatening. It is a useful theory to help us learn to track what it is we need from moment to moment.
Videos to understand the nervous system and this theory by Dr. Stephen Porges and also Irene Lyon SEP are available on YouTube.
In an SE session as we learn to stay present to ourselves and respond with care to the states of fight, flight & freeze (experiencing the state and then the shift out of that state). As we understand this, we can then normalize our experience and feel more range of availability to experiences and relationships in daily living. The SE session brings awareness and identification of fight, flight & freeze through the practice of engaging consciously with the nervous system so that we can integrate the completion & coherence of these states.
Somatic Experiencing techniques can be used for inquiry, discernment, finding our purpose, supporting the savouring of life...any time we need to access our inner wisdom to find our way through or to find gratitude in how we are living through a deeper connection with ourselves.
From Anne-Marie: I have been a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner since 2015 and an Integral Development Coach since 2011. I bring to my Coaching and SE over 30 yrs. of experience as an Occupational Therapist with a depth of knowledge of both physical and mental illnesses and conditions.
I have practiced and trained in various forms of meditation, self- inquiry and inner work for over 25 years and this has taught me the value and healing capacity that being present in the moment without judgement allows. I am constantly re-inspired by the innate capacity we have to heal from past trauma. My desire is to help you to tap into your own inner resources and experience the wholeness that is in the core of your Being.
I offer sessions that are a combination of coaching, education, inquiry and mindful self- awareness. You will be invited to listen to your body as we explore unresolved issues that may be at the root of current life limiting beliefs and patterns. Sessions are usually 90 minutes long and can be helpful for anyone wanting to gain more self -understanding, or experience more ease and reduce symptoms of dysregulated emotions and stress.
Anne-Marie Lappano Cell: 519-272-5014 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
From Nicola: I am a bodywork therapist offering Somatic Experiencing as a way to engage with our nervous system in its remarkable ability to renegotiate trauma and support transformative processes. I have found in my own life and in witnessing others, that as we learn to track what is happening in our body and experience the innate movement toward resourcing, there is a great sense of empowerment and connection.
I use Somatic Experiencing Touch to support regulation in the nervous system and a sense of coherence throughout the structures of the body.
SE Touch includes verbal consent as well as listening to cues from the body to best support each person during the session. Consent for me in this process is ongoing as it takes into consideration that each day or moment can be different, and needs to be responded to in a fluid way.
SE Touch is done fully clothed and positions may include laying on the massage table supine or side-lying, sitting on a chair or standing. Know that you have the right to ask questions, ask for adjustments to be made, stop the process, or end the therapeutic relationship at any time.
Through my training in Mindful Self-Compassion, I bring the awareness of self-kindness and compassion which I feel increases our capacity to work through difficult experience, and enhance our ability to be present to the good things in our lives.
I continue to do the work of my own learning, healing & self-regulation, and I am an advocate for bringing trauma-informed awareness into families, the communities we live in, and the world.
Nicola Usher Cell: 519-949-3822 Email: email@example.com
The cost of a session is $90 for 60 minutes or $120 for 90 minutes. If these costs represent a barrier to working together, please feel free to contact Nicola or Anne-Marie to discuss options.
Anne-Marie & Nicola are both training next year with Kathy Kain in her Touch Skills Training for Trauma Therapists.